Before Euphoria premiered, the world knew one thing about the brand new HBO show: there is a locker room scene with about 30 full-frontal penises flopping about. One would assume that kind of frenzy of phalluses would be the most wave-making moment of its episode, if not the season as a whole. Well, the Euphoria installment featuring all that genitalia aired on Sunday with the second episode, “Stuntin’ Like My Daddy.” And, that display of male nudity doesn’t even rank in the top three most shocking scenes of the hour by a long shot.
There is so much more at play in “Stuntin’” than a large handful of direct-to-camera penises (I only counted 15, personally). In one of the most harrowing moments of the series — and 2019 television in general — Zendaya’s Rue Bennet is force-fed fentanyl, the drug famously involved in the death of Michael Jackson. Elsewhere, sex tapes are leaked, bodies are broken, and worrisome crushes are revealed. So let’s talk about the moments that are going to stick with fans for a very, very long time.
Rue’s Fentanyl Scene
“I know you’re not allowed to say it — but drugs are kind of cool,” Rue says at the beginning of “Stuntin’.” Or, at least they’re really dope before they ruin your life, leaving you comatose on the floor and your younger sister a shaking, sobbing mess, Rue continues. That is how Rue found herself in rehab and her sister, Gia (Storm Reid), wound up traumatized forever, we learn through flashbacks.
Rue’s narration proves to be a portentous thought as she ends up trying fentanyl — a drug that gives her blissful high but could also end her life — by the end of the episode. It is impossible not to worry about anyone trying the extreme pain reliever, but Euphoria doesn’t allow the drug to be the main threat against Rue. Instead, she is forced to take the drug by Fezco’s (Angus Cloud) extremely violent drug dealer, Mouse.
Here, Rue is a pawn in Mouse’s game. Mouse wants Fez to buy fentanyl from him, but, Fez thinks it’s too dangerous of a commodity. So, Mouse makes Rue take a drop of fentanyl from a knife, gets her extremely high, and then talks her into accepting $300 worth of patches. Since she only has $2 to her name, Mouse suggests she will have to pay him in other ways. The threat of rape is very obvious as Mouse repeatedly rubs Rue’s upper thigh. If Fez wants to stop Rue’s assault, he’ll have to pay up. It’s a stomach-churning series of events, which leave Rue passed out in the back of Fez’s car. Every time I watch it I feel ill.
While it's difficult to shake off the anxiety of this scene, “Stuntin’” at least gives Zendaya the first of many opportunities this season to show off her dazzling acting chops. Her heart-wrenching turn on the high school stage alone should toss her into Emmy consideration next year.
The Release Of Kat’s Sex Tape
Euphoria has a habit of turning women’s sexual manipulation into stabs at empowerment. It’s a tendency Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner) would recognize. Last week, we saw that through Cassie’s (Sydney Sweeney) choking and Maddy’s (Alexa Demie) pool sex. Cassie nullified her choking with a sexy purr. Maddy tried to have revenge sex, but it was recorded by multiple people and then used to shame her, as “Stuntin’” proves.
Kat Hernandez (Barbie Ferreira) is quickly becoming the poster child for this trend. In the premiere, she was manipulated into sex with a creepy boy named Wes (Nolan Bateman). This week, the video from that hookup — her first time having sex — is shared with her entire school and eventually leaked onto porn websites. At first, Kat tells off one of the McKay twins involved in the disturbing violation of her privacy, threatening to turn him and his brother in for discriminating child porn. Soon enough, the videos are scrubbed from people’s phones and the McKay brothers have convinced their school friends Kat isn’t the girl in the sex tape.
But, Euphoria quickly makes Kat’s most painful moment the key to her growth. First, Troy McKay (Tyler Timmons) has to buy Kat a couple hundred dollars worth of product from Sephora. It’s funny if minimizing buy-off. Then, later that night, Kat finds her sex tape on Pornhub and it has hundreds of likes, thousands, of views, and a never-ending stream of positive comments. All of a sudden, Kat realizes she may just be sexy — sexy enough to get paid. She clicks on a website to start camming.
If the McKay twins and Wes The Creepy Boy didn’t leak Kat's sex tape, this transformative realization would have happened. In the long run, Euphoria suggests the boys may have actually helped Kat on her journey more than they hurt her. It’s an unsettling proposition.
A Deep Dive Into Nate
When we first meet Nate (Jacob Elordi) he seems to be the classic teen show jock with an especially concerning set of anger issues (see: his violent meltdown aimed at Jules in the pilot). “Stuntin’” proves he’s an entirely different monster. At the beginning of the episode we learn Nate views Maddy as a delicate flower, or piece of property, he must protect from threats. He fantasizes about the moment he’ll need to save her, amplifying his sense of masculinity.
Towards the end of the episode, Nate finds a way to make his revenge fantasy reality when Maddy says she was blackout drunk during her pool romp with random guy Tyler (Lukas Gage). It's suggested Maddy was telling a white lie to get everyone to stop making fun of her. Nate takes his reaction to the extreme, breaking into Tyler’s house, hoarding all of his weapons, and then surprising his prey when he arrives him. This is when we find out Tyler isn’t a teen like the rest of the Euphoria crew — he’s 22 years old. Maddy is 17. Blackout or no blackout, Tyler had sex with an underage girl who had been drinking.
So, Nate takes matters into his own hands, and beats Tyler to a pulp, nearly murdering him. One could believe this show of violence is for Maddy, but it’s not. It’s an outlet for Nate’s wild rage and a way to make his many dreams of retribution real. Since Nate has terrible information on Tyler, he can brutalize him without threat of retaliation. We can tell this is Nate’s driving force by how cooly he leaves the scene: freshly showered like Patrick Bateman (Christian Bale) in American Psycho and wearing Tyler’s clothing. Nate’s ability to look even better in Tyler’s clothing than Tyler is part of the draw. Maddy is an afterthought here.
It’s scary to realize the kind of darkness Nate is capable of. It’s an even worse revelation when Euphoria comes to last few seconds of “Stuntin’.” First, we see Jules (Hunter Schafer) texting a new boy from a dating app. We’re happy for her…until the camera pans to reveal the guy on the other end of the line is Nate, posing as a shy stranger named Tyler. Yes, like the Tyler he nearly killed a few hours earlier. Yes, Nate is the same person who nearly killed Jules last week.
Yes, we should all be very, very worried for Euphoria’s favourite girl.